https://www.theepochtimes.com/sanibel-causeway-washed-out-by-hurricane-ian-reopening-more-than-a-week-early_4808095.html

Sanibel Causeway, which connects Sanibel Island to the Florida mainland, has reopened after undergoing emergency repairs that were prompted by the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, announced that the emergency repairs were completed in 15 days, which is more than a week ahead of schedule.

Hurricane Ian, a category 4 hurricane, washed out portions of the 3-mile causeway that connects Florida to Sanibel Island, where some 6,300 people reside. The damage stopped vehicles from going to Sanibel Island, delaying the delivery of services and supplies to the island community.

The hurricane killed more than 100 people in Florida, many of them in Lee County, where Sanibel and its famed seashell beaches are a top tourist destination.

Emergency repairs were initially predicted to take until the end of October. Instead, the causeway reopened about only three weeks after the hurricane hit Florida on Sept. 28.

“As of this morning, access to Sanibel Island has been restored for residents, reconnecting Sanibel Island to the mainland,” DeSantis’s office announced on Oct. 19.

“It’s something that shows a little bit of a can-do spirit,” the governor said at a news conference, adding that government bureaucracy shouldn’t impede repair efforts.

“The work that has been done to restore vehicle access to Sanibel Island has been historic,” DeSantis said. “Cutting through bureaucratic red tape and delivering on our promise to get Sanibel Island up and running has been a top priority.

“By restoring access over the causeway, repair crews, first responders, emergency vehicles, business owners and residents will be better able to expedite recovery from this storm.”

In this aerial photo made in a flight provided by mediccorps.org, damage from Hurricane Ian is seen on the causeway leading to Sanibel Island from Fort Myers, Fla., on Sept. 30, 2022. (Gerald Herbert/AP Photo)

DeSantis, a Republican, directed the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to prioritize repairs to the Sanibel Causeway on Oct. 4.

By Oct. 11, DeSantis announced that a one-time convoy of more than 350 vehicles for utility restoration would be able to safely cross the bridge onto Sanibel Island, thanks to steady progress on the emergency repairs.

On Wednesday, his office said that 100 crews worked around the clock to repair the causeway, which includes three separate bridges. Workers used 8,200 loads of fill dirt, 2,400 loads of rock, and 4,000 tons of asphalt.

“I am grateful for our dedicated team members who quite literally built a road in the Gulf in 15 days,” FDOT Secretary Jared Perdue said in a statement. “While the bridges were largely undamaged by the storm, portions of the causeway which connect bridge structures together were washed away by Hurricane Ian, leaving the bridges unconnected to the mainland or the island.”

“A project like this, under normal circumstances, could take months,” Perdue said, but added that efforts were expedited due to the use of “strategic and innovative techniques to rebuild the causeways quickly.”

Now that emergency repairs have been completed, FDOT will work with the Lee County government on a permanent repair for the causeway. Officials said that power restoration, debris removal and other recovery efforts will be much easier now that temporary causeway repairs have been completed.

Per the governor’s office, FDOT, in partnership with Lee County, has completed emergency repairs to several other damaged bridges in the Lee County area. This includes repairs to the Pine Island Bridge in less than three days, as well as the Big Carlos Pass, Big Hickory, Little Carlos Pass, and New Pass Bridges.

“There is hope,” said Cecil Pendergrass, chairman of the Lee County Commission. “We will rebuild.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mimi Nguyen Ly

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Mimi Nguyen Ly covers world news with a focus on U.S. news. Contact her at mimi.nl@epochtimes.com

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